If the part of the brain
that controls the muscles is damaged while the brain is growing, cerebral palsy
Therefore, cerebral palsy
is not just one specific condition. It is used to refer to a large group of
problems that can affect muscles, resulting in problems with body movement (motor
Cerebral palsy can lead
to weakness and lack of co-ordination of the muscles. In some people, the condition
results in the person simply being clumsy. Others are more severely affected
and cannot walk.
Often the exact cause is
unknown. However, it is known that anything that damages the brain while it
is growing can lead to cerebral palsy. Therefore, the risk of developing this
condition increases if a pregnant woman smokes, drinks alcohol to excess, has
diabetes or contracts rubella (German measles).
Premature babies who experience
complications are more likely to develop it than full-term babies.
Therefore, while the specific
cause may be unknown, it is important that pregnant women take certain precautions
during their pregnancy:
- Do not smoke.
- Do not drink alcohol
- Have regular check-ups.
- If you have a condition
such as diabetes, have frequent check-ups and complete any treatment or medication
recommended to you.
In some cases, cerebral
palsy may be the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain during labour and delivery.
Children can also develop
cerebral palsy in their first two years of life as the brain is still developing.
They may suffer a head injury or contract a brain infection, such as meningitis,
resulting in cerebral palsy.
What are the
symptoms of cerebral palsy?
Symptoms can be confusing
and there is some debate about the age of onset of symptoms. Some think the
onset of symptoms must be before the age of two to be considered cerebral palsy,
while others think age five is the cut-off point.
There are a number of things
you can look out for:
- A baby who is over two-months
old and feels stiff or floppy, arches their back or stretches out their neck
when you hold them.
- A delay in the appearance
of developmental milestones within the first two years, for example being
able to sit up without support by around 6-months-old and being able to walk
by around 14-months-old. (Remember, different children develop at different
stages, therefore these ages are estimates. However, if you are worried that
your child is not developing the way they should, visit your doctor for ease
- You may notice that your
child only ever uses one hand to reach for things or uses only one side of
their body when crawling.
- Many infants with cerebral
palsy have low muscle tone. This is usually noticeable before other problems,
such as movement, become apparent.
There is no single test
for cerebral palsy. A diagnosis is usually made only after the child has been
carefully observed and certain tests have been carried out. Tests may include
a neurological exam in which things like posture and reflexes are examined.
the prognosis for people with cerebral palsy?
This depends on the severity
of the cerebral palsy. Some people may have a mild form which goes largely unnoticed.
For example, they may have minor problems with muscle tone or be clumsy.
Others may have severe problems
as a result of their cerebral palsy. They may be unable to purposefully move
any part of their body, which can result in major complications such as breathing
problems. Where such complications exist, the person may have a shorter life
While cerebral palsy may
be accompanied with mental handicap this is not always the case. It is particularly
difficult to discern this in those children with severe muscle problems which
can lead to mechanical difficulties in communication.
Children with only moderate
disability generally have a normal life expectancy and most can lead a relatively
independent and normal life, given certain supports.